BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Every Monday, we highlight a Buffalo City Shaper - someone in the business community or someone who is working for a not-for-profit - who is making Western New York a better place to live.
This week, 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik tells us how one man is on a mission to make lacrosse more accessible.
"It's not just a Northeast game, Mid-Atlantic game like it used to be in the past. Texas, Florida, West Coast, I mean, it's just booming everywhere," says Chris Mathias.
Mathias grew up in Buffalo and played lacrosse in high school. He didn't really get involved in lacrosse again until his son started playing in second grade.
"I was looking for a place for him to play in the city, and there was nothing around. So, I sort of opened my mouth and said, 'let's start something,' and it took off from there," he says.
Mathias started Buffalo Youth Lacrosse around fifteen years ago with around twenty kids. But he noticed a need for equipment and financial support so everyone who wanted to play could. That's why he launched the Western New York Lacrosse Foundation (http://www.wnylacrossefoundation.org/) in 2016.
"I decided to go out and see about raising some money and creating three things really- access, opportunity, and diversity in the game of lacrosse," says Mathias.
Now, two to three-hundred kids are involved with his programs every year. The foundation donates equipment to schools, provides information for physical education programs, partners with the Police Athletic League, and runs clinics at Buffalo Public Schools.
"Kids that are engaged in something tend to be more successful in school. So, if you give them something that they care about outside of school or associated with school, they tend to do better in school, and that's what we like to see. We want them engaged in something so they're better students," says Mathias.
Boys and girls from any community in first through tenth grade can participate, and while there's a focus on students who don't live in the suburbs, Mathias says he just wants to get people playing.
"The goal is to have a positive impact. Affect someone's life. I understand it's just a game and maybe not a life-changing thing, but we did something positive for a kid that didn't have the opportunity before," Mathias said.
If you're interested in helping the Western New York Lacrosse Foundation, or if your child would like to sign-up, Mathias welcomes you to contact the group.
If you’d like to nominate someone to be a Buffalo City Shaper, just send Kelly Dudzik an email.